And so another college football season winds up its regular season. One door closes, another opens. Now we move on to Conference Championship games, followed by Bowling For Dollars.
THE GAME, as they call it in the Big Ten, was indeed the big game with MICHIGAN winning its 2nd straight showdown with Ohio State. Plenty of action, and plenty of talent on display, with the Wolverines pulling away in the second half for the W. To my eyes the player of the game, and the week, had to be Michigan’s young QB J.J. McCARTHY. He passed for 263 yards and 3 TD, with 0 Interceptions. He also ran. for 27 yards and another TD. The game became more of a pass-fest than one normally expects from these two teams, but injuries meant both teams were without their starting RB. BTW, runner-up as game MOP was Michigan RB DONOVAN EDWARDS, subbing for the injured Blake Corum. Edwards rushed for 216 yards and 2 TD. Both of those TD runs were in excess of 70-yards.
Perhaps most importantly, it knocks Ohio State out of the Final Four teams for their NCAA Championship run. That is unless one of my Top 4 gets slammed in a Conference Championship game, which appears unlikely. But then again you never know, which is why they play the games.
Pigskin’s Final 4
- GEORGIA 12-0 vs. L.S.U.
- MICHIGAN 12-0 vs. Purdue
- TCU 12-0 vs. Kansas State
- SOUTHERN CAL 11-1 vs. Utah
The expectation will be for the top ranked teams to be their conference rivals, but an upset or two could really cause a nightmare and a mess in selecting the Final Four. Don’t forget that the Pac-12 Championship game is on Friday night, the rest on Saturday.
There were more than a few upsets last weekend, including South Carolina beating Clemson, at Clemson. I would also classify Oregon State mounting a huge 4th Quarter comeback to beat Oregon 38-34 as a big upset. That combined with an Utah drubbing Colorado 63-21 means that the Pac-12 title game has extra incentive for the Trojans, whose only loss came at the hands of the UTES.
TCU played perhaps their best all-around game of the season in a 62-14 Win over Iowa State.
I might also mention that this writer/observer of college football my coach of the year vote goes to SONNY DYKES, who took over the Horned Frog program after the firing of Gary Patterson. Some key members of the 2021 squad took to the transfer portal after the ouster of Patterson. So few people expected last year’s 5-7 returning players to make such a leap to success. Even Publishing Guru Phil Steele projected the Horned Frogs to a ranking of 51st in his pre-season College Football “bible”. He was not alone in those sentiments. But DYKES pulled it together.
He just beat out my No. 2 ranked coaching job, that being by JIM MORA. Many of us were shocked when vet coach MORA took the job as head man at UCONN. UCONN, coming off a 1-11 record for 2021, was ranked by everyone at below the a Top 100 rank for the Huskies. Over the past 5 seasons the team had won a whopping total of 10 games. MORA led his charges to a 6-6 record, making them bowl eligible.
PIGSKIN’s Players of the Week Week 13
OFFENSE TYJAE SPEARS #22 RB Tulane 5’10/195
This weekend the Green Wave will take on the UCF Knights for the AAC Championship. SPEARS has been the key offensive player for the 10-2 Tulane all season. Against Cincinnati, which was a Top 25 team, SPEARS was a one man army rushing 35 times for 181-yards and 2 TD. He also caught a pass for 17 yards. It took him to his first 1,000-yard rushing season. For the season he now has 1,177-yds at 6.2-ypc & 14 TD. He’s an explosive runner with excellent balance. Depending upon his Combine medical I expect him to be a Day 3 Draftee in the NFL Draft.
JIM NAGY and his Senior Bowl scouting crew had a different choice in RB KENNY McINTOSH/Georgia, who rushed for 86-yards and 1 TD, also catching 2 passes and turning them into 96-yards gained.
DEFENSE SYDNEY BROWN #30 S Illinois 6’/200
His name should be a bit familiar to you because his twin brother CHASE BROWN has been getting lots of pub this season as the key RB for the Illini Offense. SYDNEY now has 50 starts under his belt at Illinois. He was Honorable Mention All-Big 10 last season, but he has to be voted to 1st Team this season. He excels at stopping the run game, but also shows up as a cover S. Just to show you how versatile he is at his job, and the reason why I have him in this space, here is his stat sheet for last Saturday:
6 Tackles/4 solo 2 Interceptions/1 a Pick 6 1 Fumble recovery, 1 53-yard scoop & score
He had 6 INT for the season and was the leader of the D, as the ‘Fighting Bielema’s” surprised everyone but themselves with an 8-4 record.
A big piece to the success puzzle, that Michigan turned into a 12-0 regular season, was their PK JAKE MOODY. MOODY was the 2021 season GROZA Award winner, named after former Browns K/OL Lou Groza. MOODY hit on 23 of 25 Field Goal attempts last season. This year he was key for the Wolverines unbeaten record. His stats slumped a little bit from 92% FG accuracy to 81%. But I dug into that and uncovered this little tidbit to partially explain the slippage. In 2021 MOODY attempted only 1 Kick longer than 50-yards. This season he has attempted 6-50+ yard Kicks going 2/6. Those 4 misses, from what I call “prayer” distance account for most of his slippage. I would rank him as my top PK Prospect for the 2023 NFL Draft, but not if your team’s Offense is so bad that you need a kicker who can hit more than 50% from 50-yards+. Take him at about Round 5/6 if you are desperate for a better Kicker on your 2023 Roster.
Last Friday night I watched the ACC showdown between UNC & N.C. STATE. I did not realize what a hateful rivalry exists between the Tar Heels and the Wolfpack. But it is loud and it is real. Even State’s Head Coach DAVE DOEREN even admitted as much during a pre-game interview. The general implication seems to be that every young athlete in the state of North Carolina wants to play at UNC, and the leftovers go to state. Well the long and short of it is the underdog Wolfpack winning the game in OT. And there is one player that I have not mentioned at all this season that I do want to give some kudos to; COREY DURDEN/DT/ ITN.C. STATE. DURDEN is a stout young man at 6’4/305, with a frame that looks like even more than 305. He transferred from FSU 2 years ago. He was voted 1st Team All-ACC after last season. And he has been even more impactful this year. He showed me good stamina and hustle in the game against UNC. He gets enough push to disrupt the pocket, if not actually sack the QB. My game notes include the words noting his “great energy & perseverance”. He was credited with 5 tackles, 3 of them solo, & 1 TFL. I was impressed with what I saw from the big guy. He has solidified a spot as a draftable player for the NFL. I would say Day 3/Round 5.
The biggest news out of NEBRASKA last weekend was the hiring of MATT RUHLE as the new Head Coach of the Cornhuskers football team.But it also just so happens that team showed some life and knocked off favored Iowa, which was playing to head to the Conference Championship game if they won. The ‘Huskers won 24-17, and once again the leader offensively was WR/TREY PALMER the LSU transfer. So it still seems to hold true that if you are gonna look in the Transfer Portal to recruit WR talent seeing the prospect’s name with LSU beside it should get your attention. Buried in a deep, talented WR pool at LSU PALMER had 30 catches in 2021. This year he finished the regular season with 71 catches for over 1,000-yards and 9 TD. He also shows flashes as a Return Man. Against Iowa he caught 9 balls, for 165 yards and 2 TD. He has nice size at 6’1/190, and he can turn on the jets. He should be in a record number of wideouts to be Drafted on Day 3 of the NFL Draft, if he comes out.
Here are some other prospects who look like the real deal for the NFL Draft.
TYRUS WHEAT OB/DE Mississippi State 6’2/265 Not a perfect fit position-wise, but a smart, productive player. He was outstanding in the upset W over Ole Miss, in Oxford. WHEAT had 6 tackles, 5 solo, 2.5 TFL, 1 Sack. He’s Day 3 solid, and might really show out as a pro if playing for a creative, aggressive Defensive Coordinator.
A.T. PERRY WR Wake Forest 6’5/206 Large target, who picks up speed with his long strides down field. Has shown dependable hands. Against DUKE, in a losing effort he had 8 receptions for 87 yards and 1 TD. Has 70 catches this season and had 71 last season. Might crack the Top 100 if he has a big Combine.
JAMES HALL DE Baylor 6’5/290 Guess I picked the right game to watch for HALL. The Baylor DL is 2-deep with solid contributors, so when on the field they need to play with urgency. HALL did that against Texas. He plays faster than your average 290-pounder. He has a long frame, and really flashes as a penetrator with speed to the ball. He came up with a fumble recovery after a sack, and took it in for a “scoop & score” from the 16-yard line. His overall stat line read 4 Tackles, 3 solo, 1 TFL/1 Sack, and the aforementioned TD, plus a total of 2 fumble recoveries. Texas prevailed with 256 yards rushing from their RB duo of ROBINSON/JOHNSON, but HALL really caught my eye in a valiant losing effort.
I might also add that another key for Texas in this Win was the work of one of the best 2-man LB units in college football: DeMARVION OVERSHOWN #0 and JAYLAN FORD #41. These two hard working productive players combined for 27 tackles, 9 solo, plus 4 TFL. The Longhorns DL is one of the biggest and best in college ball, and the LB were cleaning up while the DL tied up thew Baylor blockers at the line-of-scrimmage. Watch out for Texas next year, as the team preps for a switch to the SEC (along with Oklahoma) very soon. They will have multiple players drafted, but will also return some solid talent. I think the Longhorns may finally be back as a perennial power.
Enjoy the weekend of Conference Championships, starting Friday night, with that big showdown in the PAC-12. Top 4, and 11-1, SOUTHERN CAL is taking on the only team that beat them this season, UTAH. IMO, if the Trojans win this one they are a lock to stay in the Final Four grouping.